Ben Luck and Xavier Engle near the top of the pass.
The hike over Bishop Pass was absolutely beautiful and about 7.5 hours later we arrived at the head of La Conte canyon with sore feet and childlike excitement. A few miles of savage front-range-style mank boating later we found a beautiful camp on granite ledges where we feasted on steak and dreamed of the whitewater to come.
Matt's all business on steak night.
Kayaking on nothing but granite is fun. Sleeping on nothing but granite is not AS fun and after a long restless night I was more than ready to venture forth in search of the legendary California gnar I knew was to come. Name a style of rapid and chances are you will find it on day 2 of the Kings. We ran big slides, small slides, boulder gardens, waterfalls, holes etc. Roughly 93% of the pictures I have seen of the run were taken in this section.
Another great day of boating. The manky boulder gardens were nicely covered and we made good time down river. The highlight of the day came shortly before lunch. We had been leap-frogging with Jason Hale, Drew Duval, and Will Pruett the whole trip and we knew they were just ahead of us. Seeing their boats on the right shore we made for the same scouting eddy. Matt and Oliver pulled in first and just as they entered Jason peeled out in front of me with fire in his eyes. You could tell by his intensity something big was going down, and we scrambled out of our boats; running down the bank to try and get a good view of Hale firing up the Big Bad Hairy Beaver slide! That thing is massive! I considered the slide for a while but in the end decided on the conservative line (through the trees on the right) and we continued. That night was spent at my favorite camp on the run, on an island in the beautiful Tehipite valley, under what Wikipedia claims is the largest granite dome in the Sierra.
The view downstream from the Tehipite Camp.
I can’t remember whom, but someone once told me that the Bottom Nine on the Middle Kings was a lot like the South Merced. The joke was on me. I guess I can see the similarity if you just take all the pools out of the South Merced, turn up the gradient, tighten the canyon, and throw in some rattlesnakes and thicker poison oak for good measure! Both runs have granite boulders! That said this was one of the more memorable days of paddling I’ve ever had. This is full on expedition style boating with class V lines between portages, small eddies, endless horizon lines, and pieces of kayaks on the shore to remind you to stay on your game.